중앙데일리

A musician follows his muse

Tenacity led to sweet success

Mar 26,2007
Kang Sang-gu By Park Jong-keun
A traditional Korean music composer is bringing a new sound to the local performing arts scene. Kang Sang-gu, 34, is one of the leading musicians in a movement to popularize traditional Korean music and fuse it with other genres.
Mr. Kang was the composer, musical director and conductor for the Korean musical “Dreaming in Mars,” which finished a run at the Seoul Arts Center last Thursday. The musical was a big-budget historical production comparable to “The Last Empress.”
Mr. Kang’s score was praised by the local media. One newspaper said “The musical showed that it is possible to produce a memorable aria locally.”
He also created music for the B-boy performance,“Picnic,” which begins in mid-April at the Peacock Theatre in London. It is being produced by Yegam, the production company of the successful nonverbal martial arts performance, “Jump.” The fact that he composed music for a B-boy performance shows his versatility. “I wanted to make hip-hip music rather than traditional Korean music,” Mr. Kang said.
Mr. Kang has never trained in music professionally, though he had piano lessons when he was in elementary school. He was just an ordinary music lover, he said. When he was a freshman in high school, he composed a piece for the first time.
“Sitting in front of a piano, I had the feeling that I just wanted to make something. Without knowing chords, I played something and transcribed the notes onto a sheet of paper,” he said.
The music he composed was rediscovered 10 years later by Jeong Su-nyeon, a haegeum, or Korean fiddle, player. In 2001, it was published as the title song of the album, “Beautiful Things in the World,” which sold more than 40,000 copies, a record for traditional Korean music.
“I had to compose a piece that goes well with the haegeum, and the one that I composed when I was a high school freshman came to mind,” Mr. Kang said. “At the time, I didn’t even know what haegeum was.”
However, his widowed mother and two older brothers rejected the idea of him going to study music in college. They said it would be difficult for him to compete with students trained at high schools dedicated to arts education.
After two consecutive attempts to enter college failed, he was allowed to have private music lessons.
He finally entered the college of Korean music at Chung-Ang University and his talent started to be recognized. When he was a junior, he won an award in traditional music composition in a competition sponsored by KBS for a song that combines jazz and traditional Korean rhythms.
He also composes music for ballet, and recently produced a piece for twelve-stringed Korean harps and seven-stringed fiddles. the latter for an animated film.
“I don’t want to be bound by traditional Korean music. No matter whether it is rock music or trot, I want to hear people say it sounds like something ‘new,’” he said.


By Choi Min-woo JoongAng Ilbo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]



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